c. 1725-86: MASTER 1769

The younger brother of Jean-Fran<;ois Oeben followed the latter to Paris and is recorded in 1759 working at the Gobelins as head journeyman in his brother’s workshop. When Jean – Frangois moved to the Arsenal in 1756. Simon took over his lodgings as well as the actual management of the Gobelins workshop, but he did not receive the title until the death of his brother in March 1763. In the same month Marigny presented him with a certificate confirming that he had worked at the Gobelins ‘since the month of October 1754 until 21 January 1763. a period of 8 years and 3 months, in the post of head journeyman to the late Jean-Fran^ois Oeben. his brother, maitre ebeniste du Roy… and it is in order for him to enjoy the privileges accorded by His Maj­esty and to be received as master without paying the customary fee.’ Simon Oeben only made use of this certificate six years later when he finally became a master in 1769.

It is inevitable that Simon Oeben’s production at the Gobelins should be confused with that of his elder brother at the Arsenal, at least until the latter’s death. The links between the two brothers must have been strengthened by their marriage to two sisters (Simon married Marie-Marguerite Vandercruse. while Jean – Frangois married Francoise-Marguerite Vander­cruse). The appearance of Simon Oeben’s name among the creditors of his brother’s estate for a sum of 113 livres clearly shows that he supplied him regularly with furniture. Jean-Fran^ois Oeben’s work between

1760 and 1763 was in fact continued by his brother Simon. Numerous commcxles in mahogany or bois satine stamped by Simon Oeben (283] are based on the commodes a la grecque’ designed by Jean – Fran^ois for Mme de Pompadour at Menars in al>out 1760. Certain of these commodes bear the mark of Chanteloup, the neighlxniring chateau to Menars. and were part of the furnishings of the Due de Choiseul. Simon Oeben being his principal ebeniste. Moreover, a portrait of Choiseul [284] shows him seated at a desk by Simon Oel>en almost identical to one in the Jones Collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum (285]. Another bureau in the museum in Tours (287] also

came from Choiseul and should l>e attributed to Simon Oeben. Finally, the celebrated bureau with its cartonnier at Chantilly which is represented in a miniature of the Due de Choiseul in Paris, by Van Bla – renberghe. should also be attributed to Simon Oeben. with its square tapering legs characteristic of his work and its fish-scale marquetry which is typical of the production of the Oeben brothers [269). The Due du Chatelet reminisced after Simon Oeben’s death that ‘this artist worked for all the important people, in par­ticular M. le Due de Choiseul..(April 1786. letter to d’Angivillers). Simon Oeben also worked for the Mar­quis de Marigny; various payments were made, first in 1764. and then from 1768 to 1773 for a total of 6.СИК) livrcs for furniture supplied for the Hotel de la Sur – intendancc. rue Froidmanteau and then for the Cha­teau de Menars.

At the Gobelins Simon Oeben was allocated exten­sive space including a workshop as well as a shop, in the area between the courtyard and the garden, be­tween 1772 and 1777 he advertised as follows: ‘Hobenne at the Gobelins maintains a large workshop and retail outlet for ebenisterie and delivers to the pro­vinces and abroad’ (Tablettes royales de renommee. 1772 and 1774: Almanach Dauphin. 1777).

f285j Bureau plat stamped Simon Oeben, c. 1765-70, in marquetry of ‘interlaced hearts and lozenges’ almost identical to the bureau in the portrait of Choiseul 1284J. I Victoria and Albert Museum, hmd/mi

Between 1770 and 1772 Simon Oeben was an ad­judicator for his guild and he died in 1786, leaving his wife and children in a parlous state of affairs. His widow obtained permission to keep the workshop at the Gobelins but was forced to close it a year later.

Simon Oeben s production consisted above all of commodes of the Transitional type in mahogany or in bois satine. as well as marquetry bureaux with square tapering legs. He seems to have had a preference for certain marquetry motifs such as ‘interlaced hearts and lozenges’. Another characteristic of his desks is the presence of two prominent brass fiutings on the corners at the top of the leg.


F. de Salverte: Les Ebcnistcs, pp. 248-49 Svend Erikscn: Early Neo-classicism in France, pp. 209-10 Alexandre Pradfcre: L’Ameublement du marquis de Marigny vers 1780’. L’Estampillc. no. 193. June 1986. pp. 44-57

Rosemarie Stratmann: ‘Der Ebenist Simon Oeben’, Aachener Kunstblatter. No. 18. 1972, p. 276. fig. 7

12881 Detail of the top of table shown at (2891. This type of marquetry depicting ruins imitating painting is found on a number of other unstamped pieces, as well as on stamped furniture by such different іbtnistes as N. Petit. P. Roussel. A. Gilbert and D. Deloose. It has been suggested that the same marquetry specialist retailed marquetry panels to different cbfnistes, probably Gilbert, who specialized in them


Updated: October 6, 2015 — 7:28 pm